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"There are no right or wrong answers in ethics"

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/30/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,671 times Debate No: 44960
Debate Rounds (4)
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People all over the world have various perspectives on what they consider right or wrong, good or bad and even moral or immoral. Men and women have different ethics as well as adults and children. Each individual is able to create their own ethics.

Ethics, which is defined by, is moral principles that govern a person's or group's behavior. All over the world people are raised in different environments which, effect the outcome of their personality. Because of the different cultural influence and environmental factors that everyone has there is no way that there can be "correct" or "right" answers in ethics.

Concerning culture, we can compare the differences in The United States and China. Someone who is raised in The United States will have different morals than someone who was raised in China. For example, in The United States we know that it is wrong or unethical to remove a child from a family just because their sex is female. However, in China, having a female child is viewed as a disappointment and will not help the family succeed in anyway. Therefore, they will put the child up for adoption or, in earlier times, may even execute the child.

Ethics does not have to just concern what is wrong, but can also include what is right or acceptable. In the southern states of The United States it is not uncommon to see someone riding a motorcycle without a helmet or driving around in the open bed of a pick up truck. But, if someone were to do those actions in the northern states people would say they were, for lack of a better word, an idiot. This proves that location is a factor of what we deem acceptable.

Overall, due to cultural influences and environmental factors people have different morals. Depending on age and gender as well we can include them in what factors our own idea of ethics. Since ethics are moral principles that govern a person's or group's behavior it would be wrong to say that there are right and wrong answers when involving ethics.


Ethics must have a right and wrong answer. Without a definitive right or wrong we would have no set laws. There needs to be a threshold to decipher what is right, and what is wrong. If a person thinks stealing or injuring is morally correct, there needs to be a line drawn to rule this wrong. Many will argue that there is a grey area in ethics, so much so that it renders the entirety of what we consider morally right or wrong to have no definitive answer. Granted, each geological culture has a different standard of morals, this is where we can decide what is actually right or wrong. Ethics is basically defined by a particular culture as to what is socially acceptable for the particular culture, in the particular place. With that being said, each one of these targeted areas has their own standard of what is right and what is wrong. Yes, in the United States it is not necessarily frowned upon for a couple to have a female child as it is in China, so if a Chinese couple were to migrate to America and then have a female child, it would be ethically wrong for that couple to immediately assume the child will have no bearing to the family name and send it off for adoption. A more concrete example would be a religious one. In the United States, we practice the right to be free to worship whatever higher power we choose to without the harsh repercussions of opposing religions penalizing us for doing so. Where as to particular middle-east countries would have a person executed for practicing certain religions. This goes on daily, with no hiccups because it is their social norm. This example proves that yes, each cultures ethical code may vary, however, each culture does have a right or wrong standard in which is completely normal. This is why there must be a right or wrong in civil society.
Debate Round No. 1


While people can argue that there are right or wrong in ethics, just on an individual cultural basis this can not be held to be true. Ethics is an overall acceptance of what is right or wrong and should not be based just on one sole culture or individual opinion. For an overall understanding of what right or wrong ethics are, they need to be viewed on corresponding global terms. While using the example of religious prosecution we can look at multiple examples from over time.

During World War II, in Japan, soldiers were expected to sacrifice themselves in order to take down the enemy, or the Allied Forces. During this time period the military was viewed somewhat as a source of worship. The country's military then created the Kamikazes, which were considered a high honor. The Kamikazes were suicide pilots who would literally go down with their planes and sacrifice themselves in order to kill the enemy.

Even in more modern times in the Eastern world religious groups still believe that religious sacrifice is an acceptable ethic. Take the terrorist attacks on 9-11, for example. Religious patrons sacrificed their lives for what they believed was best for their religion, taking not only their lives, but many more and changing the world forever.

By viewing these two examples one may feel that religious sacrifice is the highest form of achievement. However, in The United States we do not view these acts as achievements, but rather as immoral, in-just, and plain wrong. So if we were to have a "right" tolerance based on religion there would be an extreme amount of violence. However, in all if not most religions, aside from the ones mentioned above, the belief that violence is the answer is wrong leaving the question of whether it is moral as no.

In the case of creating laws based on ethics there is no way to form a complete set of laws that would make the whole of society happy without upsetting any one part. It would not be fair to create a system of right or wrong based on one individual culture. With that being said, there would need to be a medium that covers all cultures as well as all environments and locations. However, this is deemed impossible because of the vast differences in ethics between each individual culture.

In general, there is no right or wrong in ethics just because of cultural differences. As seen in the Kamikaze and 9-11 examples they believe in killing and self sacrifice for what they believe in while in the majority of the world it is viewed as wrong. It would be incorrect to have right or wrong in ethics on separate cultural terms when the world functions as a whole and not on an individual basis.


In your argument you state that in religion the belief of violence is wrong. This is because socially, you are told its wrong. Your society has drawn a line in which an ethical set of rules and regulations is wrong. Your ethics code is that violence is wrong. That is definitive. Without that code of conduct in your particular society you wouldn't"t know if killing someone like the kamikazes had done, was morally right or wrong. You go on to say that in general, there are no right or wrong in ethics because of cultural differences, however, one can argue that there is a right or wrong in ethics strictly because of cultural differences. Just as your examples describe, the kamikazes would be ethically wrong here, but ethically right there. You"re right, their society does hold a kamikaze fighter pilot has being a high honor, so socially, it is ethically right for them to do so.
One point you had made in your argument reverting back to my original statement about laws is that there is no way to satisfy an entire society over a global scale. The argument previously presented had not taken every civilization into account in one particular instance, instead my argument had presented that each individual society has its own set of ethical codes, known as laws. You are absolutely right to say that it would not be fair to create a system of right or wrong based on one individual culture because other cultures are all unique in their right way, however, it would be right for each individual culture to create their own set of laws particularly relating to their own specific culture, these laws are also a code of ethical conduct, they draw the line as to what is right and what is wrong.
Ethics do have rights and wrongs, however, they can only be right or wrong pertaining to specific individual cultures. For instance, what the United States consider, "wrong" is what other countries would consider ethically "right". A good example of this would be that of the Dolphin hunts in Denmark on the Faroe Islands. Each year, the islands hosts a dolphin hunt where they round up near extinct Calderon dolphins into shore where they have mostly young teens, proving they are now men, slaughter these helpless animals. They barbarically kill these mammals by slicing them with large hocks several times until they eventually die in their own blood. Their cry is similar to that of a newborn child and the sea is stained red with their blood. All this goes on while hundreds of spectators gather around and watch as if it"s a sport. They argue that this is ethically right because the Islands use the meat and blubber but most of the meat is wasted due to rotting on the beach or simply thrown back to sea after the festivities are over. Now, to the extremely civilized people that live in Denmark, these practices are simply tradition and they see nothing morally wrong with this, however, these practices have raised much controversy and uproar around the world simply because they are ethically wrong. This example proves that even though ethics really depend on the individual culture they are withheld in, there are right and wrong to morals.
Debate Round No. 2


By directly quoting your disputation you said, "Ethics do have rights and wrongs, however, they can only be right or wrong if they are pertaining to specific individual cultures." By stating this you are saying that the only way that there can be a right or wrong in ethics would be to view each situation on an individual, cultural basis. However, if we were to view ethics on constantly different levels there is no way that there can ever a be a right or wrong in ethics. In order for there to ever be a right or wrong in ethics each culture, society, individual opinion, etc would need to come to a unanimous conclusion on the topic that was being discussed.

You said that in order to have an ethical code of conduct, or laws, there would need to be a line drawn between right and wrong. But, if ethics is only right or wrong when concerning different individual cultures how does a country, such as The United States, which has hundreds of different cultures, create a set of laws that is fair to all involved? Referencing your example of Denmark's Dolphin Hunt on the Faroe Islands, if that were to take place in the U.S. there is no way that a law could be created equally without drawing a line. The only way that this would ever be possible would be to make it legal on one end of the country, but not on the other. If this were to happen then there would no longer be The United States, but rather two entirely different countries all based off the fact that one believes in slaughtering Whales for entertainment is fun, while the other disagrees entirely.

This example shows that there is no possible way for a correct set of right and wrong in ethics. Due to the overwhelming differences that each culture has in comparison to others, how can there ever be the correct set of ethics? You said that we judge other cultures based off of our own code of conduct. Because of this we create ethnocentrism, or the judgment of another culture based off of our personal values and beliefs. Since there is no right or wrong in ethics we need to look at other cultures from the view point of cultural relativism- the view that no one single culture is superior in any way because of their ethics. In my example of the Kamikaze suicide bombers, if we viewed it from our own culture it would be wrong, however, we need to focus on cultural relativism and view it from their cultural point of view as well, which was that it was morally correct and acceptable.

Overall, there is no right or wrong in ethics just because one culture agrees with something while another does not. When understanding ethics it cannot be based off of the belief of one cultural group, or ethnocentrism. Instead we need to look at it from a cultural relativism point of view and understand both sides. If there was a line drawn between right and wrong just because of cultural differences countries such as The United States would not be able to prosper because of all the influence from multiple different cultural and racial groups.


The original argument was, "There are no right or wrong answers in ethics". This dispute is open for interpretation whether it is on a small or large scale. The argument I am consistent with is yes, there is a right and a wrong in ethics in each society. Your retaliation on the Denmark dolphin hunt and applying that to the United States as if we don"t already have laws to protect from this is somewhat misleading due to the fact that yes, it is morally and ethically wrong and yes, is illegal. You go on to say that it would be impossible to create a law that is equal without drawing a line. You are exactly right. The line being black and white between what is ethically right and wrong. So when you say this can"t happen in our society if the west was for dolphin hunting and the east was not, you are simply reiterating the fact that ethically, the west would consider what they"re doing ethically right, and the east would say it was ethically wrong. Cut and clear, black and white. So even though both cultures and societies are different with different belief systems, within their systems there is a right and a wrong.
We cannot take two different societies such as The United States and Denmark and say due to the fact that we don"t think alike; we should automatically assume there is a huge grey area in which nothing is definitively right or wrong. I am not arguing of the attempt to make a set of rules that ethically apply to the entire globe, as you have proven in your examples that is simply impossible, different cultures, societies and countries, whichever you may call it all have a right and wrong, all are prosecuted for being wrong and are praised for being right, its black and white with no grey area that renders something morally and ethically right or wrong based on opinion.
Lets say you are right, and there is absolutely no right or wrong in ethics. That would mean I could walk out of my house, break down my neighbors door and steal whatever I would like because to me; that is morally right, I want what he or she has and in my head, I should have it because it is not fair that they have whatever it may be and I don"t. This is against the law, a law created because it is ethically wrong to break into someone"s house and take what they have.
If you were to take the argument and break it down into smaller pieces, forget about societies and cultures because those two descriptions of a mass of people can be interpreted in different manners. Lets break it down by country. Each civilized country has some sort of judicial system. The judicial system in its simplest form is to simply evaluate what is right, and what is wrong" ethically. Murder; ethically wrong. Stealing; ethically wrong. Rape; ethically wrong. These are ethically wrong in most countries. The countries they are not illegal in; they are ethically right, not ethically so-so depending on whom you are dealing with.
I was not trying to portray the fact that because we do not agree with another countries actions make it morally wrong. I was trying to compare and contrast that what they think is right, we think as wrong to each particular geographical area. In Denmark what they are doing is ethically right, plain and simple, there is no line being crossed, whereas to here in the United States it would be ethically wrong, plain and simple. Right and wrong.
Debate Round No. 3


No matter what scale, large or small, cultural or viewed by country, we are viewing ethics on the matter of whether or not there are no right and wrong in ethics. No matter if it is a cultural difference, such as the Dolphin hunts on the Faroe islands in Denmark, or the Kamikazes during World War II and the terrorist attacks on 9-11, there is no correct right and wrong. When it comes down to the final conclusion of right and wrong in ethics there could never be a right or wrong because of the vastly different opinions and influences that everyone has.

It does not matter which society you are raised in or belong to because overall there is no possible way for one hundred percent of the population to agree on the fact that something, no matter how large or small, is either correct or wrong ethically. Since each culture has their own set of ethics how could there ever be a correct set of right or wrong? You state in your argument that we cannot view another cultures traditions, such as the Dolphin hunts in Denmark, as ethically wrong just because according to our own opinions on ethics we view it as wrong. By doing so, we are using ethnocentrism, which I explained in my previous argument.

Expanding on your example of breaking into your neighbors house, you say that, based off of your opinion and the law, that it is ethically wrong. However, there are large amounts of people in any society that believe that stealing is not wrong. Take gypsies for example. They live off of the valuables that they steal from people that they don't even know. To someone who knows nothing but the way of a gypsy life that is perfectly normal for them. But if you view it from our society we see it as wrong. Just because one society thinks that something is correct and another believes that something is wrong it does not mean that ethically it is wrong, it is just a matter of cultural views.

In conclusion, there are no right or wrong in ethics. Because of environmental, cultural, racial, and personal beliefs that we all have differences in, we view ethics from cultural differences that base our opinions of others that are different than our own off of our own personal beliefs. Creating ethnocentrism, we are not viewing an idea or action as a whole on whether it is right or wrong, but rather whether we personally believe that it is right or wrong. The examples of the Kamikaze pilots, the terrorist from 9-11, the dolphin hunts in Denmark, and the gypsies prove perfect points when debating this. With this in mind there is no way that we can ever possibly have a right or wrong in ethics. Instead we should view other cultures in their own context, called cultural relativism. By doing so we open up to a majority of different beliefs on what is right or wrong. By doing so, we prove that there is no possible way for there to ever be a right or wrong in ethics and that instead there are things that are culturally acceptable in other places that are not as accepted in others.


The points you make based on cultural relativism may be right being that the examples I have provided are in fact targeted at specific cultures. However, the argument in whether there is a right or wrong in ethics is simply that, there was never a restriction put on the scale in which we can be right or wrong. Cultural relativism is absolutely necessary to understand any sort of grasp on any specific demographic. Planet earth is simply too large of a scale to argue any debate on unless that debate pertained to an atmospherical eco-system. It is necessary to break down what is being analyzed to some sort of smaller entity in order to examine it properly and make a decent argument. With that being said, in response to your counter-response, the ongoing practices of dolphin hunting in Denmark is not merely an argument of opinion, it"s an argument of national animal rights. Organizations like PETA from the United States and, and organization to help protect whales worldwide located in the United Kingdom have all taken on roles to help protect the nearly extinct dolphins in Denmark.

To also reiterate on your example of the gypsies; you are right. Gypsies do steal others things, where you are wrong is they do in fact know what they are doing is ethically wrong. It is also illegal. Illegal meaning their entire organized society has realized that what they are doing by stealing peoples belongings is ethically and morally wrong.
Your argument states that every culture is different therefore there is no way to say what is right and what is wrong because each culture differs. This cannot hold true. While every culture is different, they each have their own right and wrong, you have even acknowledged this in your argument, so to say that there are ethically right and wrongs in each society but don"t correspond globally, they are automatically rendered invalid is bleak.
In conclusion, you state in some of your last writings that if we narrow ethics down to country, "we open up to a majority of different beliefs on what is right or wrong". Admitting that there is in fact a right or wrong, they just simply clash when put on a global, much more diverse scale. You also go on to say, "we prove that there is no possible way for there to ever be a right or wrong in ethics and that instead there are things that are culturally acceptable in other places that are not as accepted in others". That is simply a white-wash of saying there is in fact a right or wrong is each specific culture, rendering your argument on the fact that there is no right or wrong in ethics regardless, invalid. When it comes down to the raw form of ethics, morals, and the grey area between right and wrong. To say there is no definitive answer to whether or not there is a right or wrong is simply not feasible, one has to look at ethics in each society to decipher what is right and what is wrong, and simply put, there are rights and wrongs in each society. Every society on this planet has some sort of an organized judicial system that has ethical right and wrongs, whether you agree with them is simply each person own opinion and choice, that doesn"t void the fact that there are morals in each society and ethically, there ultimately is a definitive right or wrong ethically throughout each society. It doesn"t matter if you"re talking about the Dolphin hunts on the Faroe Islands in Denmark, or the Kamikazes during World War II and the terrorists attacks on 9-11, if you ask anyone, regardless of culture or society, they either say it is wrong or it is right. There is no in-between opinion nor grey area. Rights and wrongs.
Debate Round No. 4
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